Consider helping today!
And Naomi, her mother-in-law, said to her, My daughter, shall not I seek out for thee a rest, that it may be well with thee? When Ruth had nothing more to do on the harvest-fields, where Boaz appeared daily, and was unremittingly gracious to her, she may have fallen into a pensive mood. Naomi was quick to note the varying 'nuances' of feeling, and said "My daughter, shall I not seek out for thee a rest?" The expression rest, or resting-place, though in itself of generic import, was, when used in such circumstances as environed Ruth, quite specific in application, and would be at once understood. It was a home to which Naomi pointed, a home for her daughter's heart. In such a home, if warm and pure, there would be repose for the affections. "That it may be well with thee," or, "which shall be good for thee." Either translation is warrantable and excellent. The latter is the most simple, and is given by Carpzov and Rosenmüller; but the former is in accordance with a frequent idiomatic use of the expression, in which there is a change from the relative in result to the relative in aim, so that אֲשֶׁר יִיטַב is equivalent to לְמַעַן יִיטַב (see Deuteronomy 4:40; Deuteronomy 6:3, Deuteronomy 6:18; Deuteronomy 10:11, 25, 28). Naomi did not distinguish between rests that would be 'good, ' and other rests which would not be 'good.' Nor did she moralize on the idea of a rest, and affirm that it would be 'good' for her widowed daughter-in-law. She assumed that every true rest was 'good,' and, on the basis of that assumption, she sought out one for her devoted Ruth. Hence the superiority of the rendering that expresses aim to that which expresses the mere prediction of result.
And now is not Boaz, with whose young women thou wast, our relatives. Naomi opens her case. She had been studying Boaz all through the harvest season. She had been studying Ruth too. She saw unmistakable evidence of mutual responsiveness and attachment. And now she had a matured scheme in her head. Hence she brings up Boaz's name at once, and says, "Is he not our relative?" מוֹדַעַת, an abstract term used concretely, meaning literally" acquaintance," but here "relative," or "kinsman" (see Ruth 2:1). Lo, he is winnowing barley on the threshing-floor tonight. Literally, "Lo, he is winnowing the threshing-floor of barley." The Hebrews could idiomatically speak of "the threshing-floor of barley," meaning "the threshing-floor-full of barley." The barley lay heaped up in Boaz's threshing-floor, and he was changed in winnowing it. He threw up against the wind the mingled mass that was on his floor, after the stalks had been carefully trodden or beaten. "Not far," says Dr. Horatio Hackett, "from the site of ancient Corinth, I passed a heap of grain, which some laborers were employed in winnowing. They used for throwing up the mingled wheat and chaff a three-pronged wooden fork, having a handle three or four feet long". "The winnowing," says Dr. Kitto, "was performed by throwing up the grain with a fork against the wind, by which the chaff and broken straw were dispersed, and the grain fell to the ground. The grain was afterwards passed through a sieve to separate the morsels of earth and other impurities, and it then underwent a final purification by being tossed up with wooden scoops, or shorthanded shovels, such as we see sculptured on the monuments of Egypt". In some of the Egyptian sculptures the winnowers are represented as having scoops in both hands. הַלַּיְלָה, tonight (Scotticé, "the nicht"). The agriculturist in Palestine and the surrounding districts would often carry on his winnowing operations after sunset, taking advantage of the evening breeze that then blows. The Chaldee Targumist makes express reference to this breeze, explaining the word tonight as meaning in the wind which blows by night.
So then wash thyself, and anoint thyself, and dress thyself? This latter phrase is in the original, "and put thy garments on thee." The verb וְשַׂמְתְּי with its final yod, was the archaic form of the second person feminine, though still much cut down and contracted from its oldest form. See Raabe's 'Zuruckfuhring,' and note the conduct of the verb, in its relation to the pronominal suffixes, when these are affixed. And go down to the threshing-floor. The town of Bethlehem lay on the summit of "the narrow ridge of a long gray hill", while the corn-fields, that gave the fortified place its name of Bread-town, stretched out expandingly in the valleys below. Dr. Robinson says, "We ascended gradually toward Bethlehem around the broad head of a valley running N.E. to join that under Mar Elyas The town lies on the E. and N.E. slope of a long ridge; another deep valley, Wady Ta'amirah, being on the south side, which passes down north of the Frank Mountain toward the Dead Sea, receiving the valley under Mar Elyas not far below. Toward the west the hill is higher than the village, and then sinks down very gradually toward Wady Ahmed. Let not your presence be known to the man before he has finished eating and drinking. It would have been imprudent and impolite to have discovered her presence while his servants and himself were busied in operations which required to be actively prosecuted while the breeze was favorable, and the light of the moon serviceable. Ruth was to wait till the servants, having finished their work and their repast, had retired to their respective homes. The master, as Naomi knew, would remain gratefully and joyfully on the spot, to keep watch in the midst of his cereal treasures, and under the still magnificence of the broad canopy of heaven. Speaking of Hebron, Dr. Robinson says, "Here we needed no guard around our tent. The owners of the crops came every night and slept upon their threshing-floors to guard them, and this we had found to be universal in all the region of Gaza. We were in the midst of scenes precisely like those of the Book of Ruth, when Boaz winnowed barley in his threshing-floor, and laid himself down at night to guard the heap of corn". Boaz's heart, when all was quiet around him, would be full of calm and comfort. He would pace about his well-heaped threshing-floor contentedly, contemplatively; and, as he paced, and thought, and adored, the figure of the beautiful and industrious gleaner might persist in coming in within the field of meditation. It might linger there, and be gladly allowed to linger.
And let it be, when he lies down, that thou take note of the place where he lies; and go, and uncover the parts about his feet, and lay thee down; and he shall declare to thee what thou shalt do. The denominative word מַרְגְּלֹתָיו—freely rendered in King James's version "his feet"—we have rendered "the parts about his feet." It is the exact opposite of מְרַאֲשֹׁתָיו, which never means "his head," but is always translated correctly either "his pillows" or "his bolster." It denotes "the supports on which the head was laid in lying;" and מַרְגְּלוֹת, having reference to members of the body which do not need such supports as the head, simply means "the places occupied by the feet." Naomi ventured, on a bold expedient to bring speedy rest to her daughter-in-law. But we assume that, with unmistaking feminine intuition, she saw, on the one hand, that Boaz was already deeply attached to Ruth, and, on the other, that Ruth reciprocated his attachment with pure intensity. Most probably we should also assume that she detected in Boaz a peculiar diffidence that caused him to shrink from making decisive advances in the way of declaring his affection. He had, however, unconsciously revealed himself, and made it clear to Naomi that he wished to divulge in words the depth of his honorable feelings. But again and again, as we may suppose, his sensitiveness overcame his resolutions. Hence Naomi's scheme to bring him to the point of declaration. It would have been reprehensible in the extreme had she not been absolutely certain of his wishes, on the one hand, and of his perfect honor and un-contaminable purity on the other. And even with that qualification, the scheme would have been imprudent and improper, and utterly unfeminine, had it not been the case that, in virtue of an ancient and much-prized Hebrew law, Ruth was entitled to call upon her nearest of kin to fulfill the various duties of a responsible kinsman. Still, notwithstanding the existence of this law, we may rest assured that the sensitive gleaner would never have summoned up courage to ask Boaz to discharge to her the duties of kinship, unless she had been sure that the thrills that vibrated within her own heart were responsive to subtle touches, on his part, of spirit with spirit.
And she said, All that thou sayest I will do. There is no need for adopting into the text the K'ri "to me," after the expression, All that thou sayest." It is a mere "tittle," indeed, whether we omit or insert the pronoun; yet it was not found in the manuscripts that lay before the Septuagint and Vulgate translators.
Ruth 3:6, Ruth 3:7
And she went down to the threshing-floor, and did according to all that her mother-in-law had enjoined. And Boaz ate and drank, and his heart was comfortable; and he went to lie down at the end of the heap; and she came softly, and uncovered the parts about his feet, and laid herself down. The translation in King James's version, "and his heart was merry," is perhaps stronger than there is any occasion for. The word rendered "was merry,"—viz; יִיטַב—is literally "was good." The Septuagint word is ἠγαθύνθη. After the labors of the evening, Boaz had a relish for his simple repast. It was good to him. Hence he ate and drank to his heart's content, enjoying with grateful spirit the bounties of a gracious Providence. By and by he retired to rest, amid visions perchance of a brightened home, which just helped to reflect on his consciousness a stronger resolution than he had ever formed before to make known his affection At length he slept. The Syriac translate adds interpretatively, "in a sweet sleep or the floor." Ruth then stepped cautiously forth to play her delicate part. She stole softly to the sheltered spot where he lay. She gently uncovered the margin of the cloak, which lay over the place where his feet were laid. She laid herself down noiselessly. The Arabic translator adds, "and slept beside him"—a most unhappy interpretation. Nothing but sin would be so far away as sleep from the eyes, and mind, and heart of the anxious suitor.
And it came to pass at midnight that the man started in a fright; and he bent himself over, and lo, a woman was lying at his feet. He had awaked, and, feeling something soft and warm at his feet, he was startled and affrighted. What could it be? In a moment or two he recovered his self-possession, and bending himself up and over, or "crooking himself, to see and to feel, lo, a woman was lying at his feet. The Chaldee Targumist tumbles into a ludicrous bathos of taste when endeavoring to emphasize the startle and shiver which Boaz experienced. He says, "He trembled, and his flesh, became soft as a turnip from the agitation. How could the most peddling and paltering of Rabbis succeed in betraying himself into such a laughable puerility and absurdity? The explanation, though of course it is not the least atom of justification, lies in the fact that the Chaldee word for "turnip" is לֶפֶת while the verb that de notes "he bent himself" is the niphal of לָפַת. The use of the expression "the man," in this and several of the adjoining verses, is apt to grate a little upon English ears. Let us explain and vindicate the term as we may, the grating is still felt. No matter though we know that "the rank is but the guinea stamp," the grating is felt inevitably. It is a result of that peculiar growth in living language that splits generic terms into such as are specific or semi-specific. We have gentleman as well as man, and embarrassment is not infrequently the result of our linguistic wealth. In the verse before us, and in some of those that go before, we should be disposed, in our English idiom, to employ the proper name: "And it came to pass at midnight that ' Boaz' started in a fright."
And he said, Who art thou? And she said, I am Ruth, thy handmaid; and thou hast spread thy wings over thy handmaid, for thou art kinsman. The Syriac translator spoils the question of Boaz by metamorphosing it from "Who art thou?" into "What is thy message?" Tremulous would be the voice of Ruth as she replied, "I am Ruth, thy handmaid." What she said in continuance has been very generally, and by Driver, among others, misapprehended. Not by Raabe, however. It has been regarded as a petition presented to Boaz—"Spread thy wings (or, thy wing) over thy handmaid, for thou art kinsman." The literal translation, however, and far the more delicate idea, as also far the more effective representation, is, "And thou hast spread thy wings over thy handmaid, for thou art kinsman." Ruth explains her position under Boaz's coverlet as if it were his own deliberate act. Such is her felicitous way of putting the ease. It is as if she had said, "The position in which thy handmaid actually is exhibits the true relation in which thou standest to thy handmaid. She is under thy wings. Thou hast benignantly spread them over her, for thou art kinsman." The Masorites have correctly regarded כנפך as a scriptio defectiva for the dual of the noun, and hence have punctuated it כְּנָפֶךָ, "thy wings." The majority of interpreters, however, have assumed that the word is singular, and have hence translated it as if it had been punctuated כְּנָפְךָ. The dual reading is to be preferred. Boaz himself had represented Ruth as having come trustfully under the wings of Yahveh (see Ruth 2:12). She accepted the representation. It was beautifully true. But, as she was well aware that God often works through human agency, she now recognized the Divine hand in the kindness of Boaz. "Thou hast spread thy wings over thine handmaid." She was under his wings because she had come under the wings of Yahveh. She felt like a little timid chicken; but she had found a refuge. It is the wings of tender, gentle, sheltering care that are referred to. There is only indirect allusion to the typical coverlet under which she lay. For thou art kinsman (see Ruth 2:20). The native modesty of Ruth led her to account for her position by a reference to the law of kinship. She had rights, and she stood upon them. She conceived that Boaz had correlative duties to discharge; but we may be sure that she would never have made the least reference to her rights, or to the correlative duties which she regarded as devolving on Boaz, had she not known that his heart was already hers.
And he said, Blessed be thou of Yahveh, my daughter; thou hast made thy latter kindness better than the former, in not going after any young man, whether poor or rich. This verse is full of satisfactory evidence that Naomi was perfectly right in conjecturing that Boas, deep in love, was restrained only by diffidence from formally declaring himself. It shows us too that the chief ground of his diffidence was his age. He had been an acquaintance, and the equal in years, of Ruth's father-in-law, Elimelech, and the impression had got hold on him that the handsome young widow might feel repugnance to his suit. Hence, instead of being in the least degree offended by the steps she had taken, he was relieved, and felt full of gratification on the one hand, and of gratitude on the other. Blessed be thou by Yahveh. Literally, "to Yahveh," i.e. "in relation to Yahveh" (see Ruth 2:20). My daughter. His relative elderliness was in his mind. Thou hast made thy latter kindness better than the former. Michaelis has seized the true meaning of these words: "The kindness which thou art showing to thy husband, now that he is gone, is still greater than what thou didst show to him while he lived." Her employment of the word "kinsman," or goel, was evidence to Boas that she was thinking of the respect which she owed to her husband's memory. Her concern in discharging that duty of 'piety' struck the heart of Boaz; and all the more as, in his opinion, she might easily have found open doors, had she wished for them, in quarters where there was no connection of kinship with her deceased husband. "She did not go after any young man, whether poor or rich." She preferred, above all such, her first husband's elderly "kinsman." In the original the construction is peculiar—"in not going after the young men, whether a poor one or a rich one." He does not simply mean that she was free from vagrant courses and desires. Her character lay, to his eye, on a far higher level His meaning is that she deliberately refrained from "thinking of any young man. The plural "young men" is to be accounted for on the principle that when an alternate is assumed or postulated, there is, in actual contemplation, a plurality of individuals.
And now, my daughter, fear not: all that thou sayest I shall do to thee, for it is on all hands known in the gate of my people that thou art a truly capable woman. The word חָיִל in the expression אֵשֶׁת חֱיִל is of many-sided import, and has no synonym in English, German, Latin, or Greek. But every side of its import brings into view one or other or more of such affiliated ideas as strength, force, forces, capability—whether mental and moral only, or also financial; competency, substantiality, ability, bravery. All who had taken notice of Ruth perceived that she was mentally and morally, as well as physically, a substantial and capable woman. She was possessed of force, both of mind and character. She was, in the New England sense, of the expression, a woman of "faculty. She was full of resources, and thus adequate to the position which, as Boaz's wife, she would be required to fill. There was no levity about her, "no nonsense." She was earnest, industrious, virtuous, strenuous, brave. There was much of the heroine in her character, and thus the expression connects itself with the masculine application of the distinctive and many-sided word, "a mighty man of valor." The expression אֵשֶׁת חֲיִל occurs in Proverbs 12:4, where, in King James's version, it is, as here and in Proverbs 31:10, translated 'Ca virtuous woman"—"a virtuous woman is a crown to her husband." But it is not so much to moral virtue that there is a reference as to that general capacity which consists in "large discourse, looking before and after" ('Hamlet, ' Proverbs 4:4). Compare the masculine expression אַנְשֵׁי־חֲיִל in Exodus 18:21, Exodus 18:25, rendered, in King-James's version, "able men," and meaning capable or substantial men, who, however, as we learn from the additional characteristics that are specified, were to be likewise conspicuous for high moral worth. In Proverbs 31:10 there is the same reference to general capacity, as is evidenced by the graphic representation that follows—a representation that by no means exhausts itself in the idea of moral virtue. Ibn Ezra takes the whole soul out of the expression when he interprets it, both here and in Proverbs, as meaning "a woman possessed of riches." When Boaz says, "All that thou sayest I will do to thee," he means, "All that thou hast so winsomely and yet so modestly referred to in what thou didst say, I am prepared to do to thee. There was only one obstacle in the way, and that of a somewhat technical description. If that should be honorably surmounted, nothing would be more agreeable to Boaz s heart than to get nearer to Ruth "For," said he, "it is on all hands known in the gate of my people that," etc. Literally the phrase is, "for all the gate of my people know," a strange inverted but picturesque mode of expression. It was not "the gate of the people," but the people of the gate," that knew.
And now it is the case of a truth that while I am a kinsman, there is yet a kinsman nearer than I. Or the rendering might with greater brevity be given thus: And now of a truth I am a kinsman; and yet there is a kinsman nearer than I. The survivals of a very ancient style of elaborately-detailed composition are here preserved. The archaism, however, was not quite appreciated by the Mazorites, who, in accordance with the spirit of the age in which they flourished, took but little note of the philological development, historical and prehistorical, of the language they were handling. Hence they suppressed the אִם in K'ri, though faithfully preserving it in C'tib. The particles, standing up and semi-isolated, palaeolithic-wise, might be accounted for in some such way as is shown in the following paraphrase: "And now 'that' of a truth (it is the case) 'that if' I (am) a kinsman, and also there is a kinsman nearer than I." Boas was of that strictly honorable cast of mind that he could not for a moment entertain any project that might amount to a disregard of the rights of others, even although these rights should fly violently in the teeth own personal desires.
Abide here tonight; and it shall come to pass in the morning, if he will act to thee the part of a kinsman, well; he shall act the kinsman's part: and if it please him not to act to thee the kinsman's part, then sure as Yahveh is alive, I will act to thee the kinsman's part. Lie still till the morning. Love is quick-witted. Boaz's plan of operations would formulate itself on the spur of the moment; but the remainder of the night would doubtless be spent in maturing the details of procedure. The aim would be to secure, as far as honor would permit, the much-wished-for prize. There would be, moreover, we need not doubt, much conversation between them, and mutual consultation, and arrangement. A large letter, a majuscula, occurs in the first word of the verse—לִינִי—which the smaller Masora ascribes to the Oriental or Babylonian textualists. It had, no doubt, been at first either a merely accidental, or a finically capricious, enlargement; but, being found, mysteries had to be excogitated to account for it;—all mere rubbish. "Tonight" is a perfect translation of הַלַּיְלָה, for the to is simply the common definite article in one of its peculiar forms, perhaps peculiarly crushed and defaced (see note on Ruth 3:2).
And she lay at the place of his feet until morning: and she arose ere yet a man could distinguish his neighbor. In the original it is "the places of his feet" (see Ruth 3:4). Time would rapidly fly past. Sleep there would be none to either the one or the other. In mutual modesty they guarded each other's honor. Thoughts and feelings, narratives and projects, would be freely interchanged. Their mutual understanding would become complete. At length there began to be the first faint tinge of paleness streaking into the dark. Ruth arose, and prepared to depart. It is added, For he had said,—or, more literally, "And he had said,"—Let it not be known that 'the' woman came to the threshing-floor. This has been to critics a puzzling clause. The conjunction in the foreground, a mere copulative, has occasioned difficulty. It is thoroughly Hebraistic. But of course it does not here introduce to notice something merely added to what goes before, of the nature of a parting injunction or request addressed to Ruth. The articulated phrase "the woman," as distinguished from "a woman," the expression in King James's version, renders such an interpretation impossible. The Targumist explains thus: "and he said to his young men." But the whole tenor of the preceding narrative proceeds on the assumption that there were no servants on the premises or at hand. Other Rabbis, and after them Luther and Cover-dale, interpret thus: "and he said in his heart," or, "and he thought." Unnatural. The difficulty is to be credited, or debited, to simplicity of composition, and the habit of just adding thing to thing aggregatively, instead of interweaving them into a complex unity. In the course of their many interchanges of thought and feeling, Boaz had expressed a desire, both for Ruth s sake and for his own, that it should not be known that she had come by night to the threshing-floor. The narrator, instead of introducing this expression of desire in the way in which it would directly fall from the lips of Boaz, "Let it not be known that thou didst come," gives it in the indirect form of speech, the oratio obliqua, as his own statement of the ease. It is as if he had introduced a parenthesis or added a note in the margin. The ἅπαξ λεγόμενον טָרְוֹם—instead of טֶרֶם—was most probably not a later form, as Berthean supposes, but an older Hebrew form that had died out of use long before the days of the Masorites.
And he said, Allow me the wrapper which is upon thee, and hold on by it; and she held on by it; and he measured six measures of barley; and he put it on her, and went to the city. The expression "Allow me," literally, "Give (me)," was a current phrase of courtesy. The verb employed—יָהַב—was common Semitic property, ere yet the mother-tongue was subdivided into Hebrew, Syriac, Chaldee, Arabic. The wrapper which is upon thee. The word for wrapper occurs nowhere else except in Isaiah 3:22, where it is translated, in King James's version, "wimple." Here it is rendered "vail," and, in the margin, "sheet or apron,"—all of them unhappy translations. So is the rendering of the Targumist, סוּדְרָא, i.e. sudarium, or "napkin." N.G. Schroder discusses the word at great length in his masterly 'Commentarius Philologico-Criticus de Vestitu Mulierum Hebraearum,' pp. 247-277. He would render it pallium or palla In consequence of national peculiarities in articles of dress, especially in ancient times, it is best to avoid a specific, and to employ a generic translation. When Boaz said, "Give me the wrapper," he did not ask that it should be handed to him. He had already put his hand upon it, and was engaged in hollowing out a scoop or cavity. Hence he said, on the one hand, "Allow me," and, on the other, "Hold on by it." And he measured six measures of barley. The particular measure referred to is unspecified. It is not only mere dream on the part of the Targumist, but it is dream involving almost sheer impossibility, that the measures were seahs, i.e. two ephahs. The Targumist had to bolster up his dream by adding another, viz; that Ruth got miraculously strength to carry the load. Load, indeed, there undoubtedly was; and no doubt it would be as great as she could conveniently carry. And likewise, in accordance with the primitive simplicity of manners, the magnitude of the burden would be demonstration to Naomi of Boaz's satisfaction with the "measures" which, in full motherliness of spirit, she had planned. And he went to the city. The Vulgate and Syriac versions, as also Castellio, Coverdale, and various other translators, but not Luther, have assumed that we should read וַתָּבְאֹ, "and she went," instead of וַיָּבְּאֹ, "and he went." So too Wright. But there seems to be no good reason for making the change. If there had been no division into verses, then the departure of both Boaz and Ruth on their respective routes, or in their respective order of sequence, would have been recorded close together: "and 'he' went to the city, and 'she' went to her mother-in-law"—each, let us bear in mind, with the heart elate.
And she went to her mother-in-law. And she said, Who art thou, my daughter? And she narrated to her all that the man had done to her. The question, "Who art thou, my daughter?" is not put by Naomi, as Drusius supposes, because it was still so dusk that she could not properly distinguish Ruth. The address, "My daughter," shows that she had no difficulty in determining who the visitor was. But there is something arch intended. "Art thou Boaz's betrothed?" Michaelis translates, "What art thou?" Unwarrantably as regards the letter, but correctly as regards the spirit of the interrogatory.
And she said, These six measures of barley he gave to me; for he said, Thou must not go empty to thy mother-in-law. The C'tib omission of "to me" after "for he said" is most likely to be the original reading. A fastidious Rabbi would rather originate this insertion than the omission.
And she said, Sit still, my daughter, till that thou know how the affair will fall out, for the man will not rest unless he complete the affair today. In saying, Sit still, my daughter, it is as if Naomi had said, "There is no occasion for restless anxiety. Let your heart be at ease till that thou know how the affair will fall out." In the Hebrew the noun is without the article. But in English it must be supplied, unless a plural be employed—"how 'things' will fall out.' דָּבָר, thing, i.e. think. Compare the corresponding relation between the German sache and sagen.
Naomi's maternal solicitude.
This is one of those paragraphs of Scripture which require delicate handling, but which, for that very reason, are full of suggestiveness that comes home to the bosom. Under strange, old-fashioned forms of things there was often much real virtue and true nobility of character.
1. It may be regarded as certain that while the harvest lasted Boaz and Ruth would be coming daily into contact with each other.
2. It may likewise be assumed as certain that their minds would from day to day grow into one another, in interest and esteem. As intimacy increased, it would reveal, on either side, points of character that were fitted to evoke admiration and sincere respect.
3. It is reasonable to suppose that Naomi's humble home in Bethlehem would be again and again visited by Boaz. There would be various attractions. Naomi herself, as an old and now a far-traveled friend, would be able to tell much that would be interesting to the kinsman of Elimelech.
4. The Palestinian harvest season would that year, as well as on other years, be a lively time. The harvest-home, in particular, would be a joy and a rural triumph. It may well be so in all countries. The golden grain is more precious by far than grains of gold. It is emphatically the "staff" on which terrestrial life has to lean. One of the chief uses of gold is to buy from the agriculturist, directly or Circuitously, for the use of those who live in towns and cities, the superfluity of cereals raised in the harvest-fields. Harvesting operations are thus always interesting and stirring. Ruth would feel an interest; and, in consequence of the hearty Sympathy and favor of Boaz, her whole nature would be stirred.
5. But it is far from being improbable that when the gleaning season was ended, so that Ruth had to exchange out-of-door for indoor activities, she may have acquired, to the eye of her solicitous mother-in-law, an unusually pensive appearance.
6. Naomi would no doubt make Ruth a constant study. Every mother, every father, should make every individual child in the family circle an individual study. It is not every child, it is not every young man, or young woman, whose whole heart can be read off at a sitting. Many a mind is many-volumed. Naomi did her best day by day to understand her devoted and deeply affectionate daughter-in-law, and seems to have felt increasingly solicitous as she noticed her unwonted thoughtfulness and reticence.
7. Then we must bear in mind that in such a state of, society as then prevailed in Bethlehem and Judah, there must have been extremely little scope for female energy and industry in business directions. Happily in our time there is, so far as Great Britain is concerned, considerable interest taken by philanthropic minds in the subject of female education, literary and technical. There are, moreover, even already many spheres in which females, not otherwise provided for, can find, in affairs congenial to their tastes and idiosyncrasies, remuneration and employment. In many government offices, and in other spheres of activity, females now occupy important positions. Not only do they excel in works of taste: whatever requires careful attention, combined with delicate manipulation, can be entrusted to their hands. There is still, it is true, much to be done to promote the employment and independence of single females; but a beginning has been made, and a point or two beyond that beginning have been reached. In the time and sphere of Naomi, however, there were no open doors of this kind. And hence, when she was looking out for the settlement of her daughter-in-law, she naturally thought only of a 'rest' for her in a home of her own. In reference to such a 'rest,' it is the duty of all mothers and mothers-in-law to be solicitous, though never obtrusive, in behalf of their children. Advice may be tendered, caution may be suggested; but there must be true sympathy on the one hand, and true delicacy of feeling on the other.
To turn now more particularly to Boaz—
1. It is reasonable to suppose that Naomi had noticed that he looked on Ruth with longing eyes.
2. It is also reasonable to suppose that, fro n some cause or other, Boaz felt himself under an unconquerable spell of reticence. The cause seems to be revealed in his use again and again of the fatherly expression, My daughter, as applied to Ruth. He was evidently well advanced in years. This seems to have been the soil on which his insuperable diffidence grew. How to get this diffidence plucked up by the roots was the problem which the solicitous Naomi set herself to solve.
3. There was only one way, as it appeared to her, in which Boaz's mind could be set free from the spell which put a seal on his lips. That was to bring Ruth into such relationship to him that he would learn her true sentiments on the one hand, and feel put upon his honor on the other. Naomi, to effect this consummation, took advantage of a time-honored custom, which had come down from very remote and primitive times, and was still in full force among the Hebrews. She thought of the Levitate law. This was a law that gave a widow, if an heiress, the right to claim, from the nearest of kin to her deceased husband, conjugal assistance in the management of her estate. The nearest of kin, if thus appealed to for the purpose indicated, had a right to refuse the widow's claim, provided he was willing to submit to certain indignities and unpleasant formalities, such as being stripped of one of his shoes, and then twitted and hooted as Barefoot (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). But if it should happen to be the case that his feelings were the reverse of repugnance, then the act of compliance would be at once the highest mead of respect which could be paid to the memory of the deceased, and the greatest gratification that could be enjoyed by the living. In the case of Ruth and Boaz, two just conclusions had been arrived at by Naomi. One had reference to Ruth, and was to the effect that, while it would be impossible for her to initiate action that might be regarded as terminating on herself, it would yet be both possible for and becoming in her to undertake the initiation of action that had for its aim what was due to the name and honor of her deceased husband. The other had reference to Boaz, and was to the effect that his diffidence, otherwise unconquerable, would be conquered if he were put upon his honor, and saw his way clear to discharge a duty to a deceased kinsman.
4. We must, in addition, suppose that Naomi, in making arrangement for the midnight interview, had unfaltering confidence in the incorruptible innocence of Ruth, and in the incontaminable purity of Boaz.
5. We are likewise entitled to assume that the method of claiming a kinsman's interposition, which she laid down for her daughter-in-law's guidance, was no gratuitous invention of her own. It is natural to regard it as having been the normal and accredited formula of procedure that was in use in "society," for the initiation of such measures as were requisite in the application of the Levirate law.
6. It is on this assumption alone that we can account for the fact that no apology was made by Ruth, and that no surprise was expressed by Boaz. Instead of surprise, there was only devout admiration of Ruth's entire demeanor in relation to her deceased husband. He said, "Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter; thou hast made thy latter kindness better than the former, in not going after any young man, whether poor or rich." It is her kindness to the deceased, not her kindness to himself, of which he speaks. The kindness she was showing after her husband's decease was, in Boaz's estimation, still greater than the kindness she had showed him, or had been able to show him, during his life. A woman, so attractive and so capable as she, might have readily found among the young men many open doors to rest, and ease, and affluence. But she did not for one moment wish to avail herself of any of these openings. She wished to do honor to the name and memory of her lamented Machlon, more especially in her capacity as the prospective heiress of his property.
7. We may be sure, however, that Naomi would never have availed herself of the customs that had got fixed by "use and wont" in relation to the Levirate law, unless she had been certain that it would be in accordance with the deepest desires of both her friends that they should get together in life. In the light of these remarks we may now re-read the entire chapter, interposing, as we go along the successive verses, whatever expository or practical remark may seem to he called for.
There is something radically wrong in every home which is not a "rest" to its inmates; and life without a home is emphatically a life of unrest.
Naomi's solicitude for her devoted daughter-in-law is beautiful and motherly. But the form into which it ran and took shape can never recur in the midst of the culture and customs of European society. Even the method of winnowing the golden grain of the harvest-field, as referred to in Ruth 3:2, is antique and obsolete. So, too, is the method which Boaz adopted to watch over his cereal treasures. He constituted himself his own watchman and policeman.
Ruth's confidence in Naomi's kindness and wisdom is noteworthy. It was no upstart prepossession and blindfold feeling. Naomi had earned it by a long-continued course of prudence and sympathy. Boaz too had earned a corresponding confidence, and hence she did not hesitate to entrust herself to his honor. She felt that she was safe.
Ruth 3:6, Ruth 3:7
The expression "his heart was merry" just means that he felt physically comfortable, and ready for quiet and sound repose.
When it is said that "the man was afraid, and turned himself," the meaning of the latter clause, as it stands in King James's version, would require some modification. The idea is not that Boaz turned from one side to another. It is that, having started in a fright, in consequence of the presence, to his indistinct consciousness, of something unusual about his feet, he raised himself up and bent forward to feel what it was.
His touch had satisfied him that it was a woman who was at his feet. Who was she? Ruth at once declared herself, no doubt in accents of sweet modesty. The statement with which she follows up the declaration of herself is variously interpreted. In King James's version there are two departures from literality.
1. The word skirt is not a literal rendering of the Hebrew term. Wings is the proper translation.
2. The entreaty Spread therefore is also a departure from literality. The verb is not in the imperative, but in the affirmative—And thou hast spread. It is Ruth's own interpretation of the position of affairs. She had come to Judaea to take shelter under the wings of Jehovah; and Boaz had, on his part, in harmony with the heavenly kindness of Jehovah, spread over her his wings of terrestrial kindness. She thus does not speak at all of Boaz's skirt, or skirts. There was beautiful delicacy in her representation. She did not need to enter into particular details. Her position, viewed in the light of custom, explained the whole case.
Ruth 3:10, Ruth 3:11
"And now, my daughter, fear not"—give not thyself any anxious concern in reference to the result. "All the people in the gate of my city know that thou art a virtuous woman." Yes, she was virtuous; and yet she was much more. She was endowed with all the capabilities which fitted her for the position she was willing to occupy (see the Exposition).
Note the highly honorable character of Boaz. There was one nearer in kinship to Ruth than himself. This person, therefore, must receive the first offer. Had the case come before Boaz as simply one of personal affection, he would in all probability have made no reference to the nearer kinsman. But as it had come before him in its relation to the deceased, and connected itself with Ruth because of her relation to the deceased, he felt that he must act in strictest honor. There were rights of property at stake, as well as affections of the heart, and Boaz could be no party to deprive any one of such rights. Still we need not doubt that his heart thrilled at the thought that the rights involved would not prove an insurmountable barrier between himself and Ruth.
Boaz's mind still runs on the lines of a kinsman's duty. There was hence something that might be thrust in between the desires of his heart and the object toward whom they trembled.
Boaz was desirous to guard the fair name and fame of Ruth, as well as to keep untarnished his own unsullied reputation.
He wished that Naomi might have some tangible evidence of his satisfaction.
The question Who art thou? sprang from Naomi's hope that the entire scheme would issue in success.
The present was, in one point of view, inconsiderable; but, in another point of view, it was a most suitable gift from one who desired indeed to show sympathy, gratitude, and kindness, but who did not wish, at that stage of the affair, to raise unconditioned expectation which might never be realized.
Naomi, as it were, said to Ruth and to her own heart, Peace, peace. All will be well. All is well. The hand of the Almighty is dealing "sweetly," not "bitterly," with all the parties concerned.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
Marriage, a woman's rest.
If Ruth was unselfish, so also was Naomi. The mother-in-law acted towards the young Moabitess as if she had been her own daughter. In seeking a husband for her daughter-in-law Naomi followed the customs of her country and her age. (Our English custom is intermediate between the French custom, according to which the husband is provided by the negotiations of the parents, and the American custom, which leaves daughters to select for themselves.) The case before us was not an ordinary one. For whilst marriage was almost universally looked forward to by Hebrew youths and maidens, there were very special reasons why Naomi should seek a husband for Ruth. As is implied in the text, Naomi desired that her daughter-in-law might find in marriage with Boaz—
I. A HOME, which should be a rest from her wanderings.
II. A PROVISION, which should deliver her from the misery and the temptations of poverty.
III. HAPPINESS, which should compensate her for the sorrows of her widowhood.
IV. PIOUS COMPANIONSHIP, which should be a relief from long friendlessness. Lessons:—
1. Parents should take thought for their children, and not leave them to choose companions and friends and life-associates by chance. Nothing could be more disastrous than such neglect and thoughtlessness.
2. Marriage should be thought of with deliberation and prayer, both by the young, and by their parents or natural guardians.
3. Those who have found rest and prosperity in marriage should not omit the duty of gratitude and praise for the care and direction of Divine providence.—T.
Diligence in business.
Boaz is an example of a thorough man of business. He was wont himself to see to it that the land was well tilled and well reaped. He was personally acquainted with the laborers. He even noticed the gleaners. He watched the reaping. He superintended the winnowing. He slept on the winnowing-floor, to protect his corn from the designs of robbers.
I. A RELIGIOUS MAN IS BOUND TO ATTEND TO THE CALLING HE EXERCISES. Whether a landowner, a farmer, a merchant, a tradesman, or a professional man, he ought to give his attention to his occupation, and not to neglect his own business to be a meddler in that of others. His business is thus more likely to prosper, and his example to younger men will be influential and beneficial.
II. AN EMPLOYER OF LABOR IS BOUND TO STUDY THE WELFARE OF HIS SERVANTS. The present state of society is very different from that in the time of Boaz. Society is less patriarchal, and more democratic. But there is still room, both in the household and in commercial and agricultural and manufacturing life, for the exercise of wise and kindly supervision over those who are employed to labor.
III. DILIGENCE IN BUSINESS PROCURES A MAN MANY ADVANTAGES. It is foolish to despise wealth, though it is easy to over-estimate it. From the narrative it is clear that the wealth of Boaz enabled him to secure a charming and virtuous wife, gave him great consideration amongst his neighbors and fellow-townsmen. If a man neglects the opportunity of acquiring property in order to pursue learning, or to do good, he deserves respect; but if from sloth and heedlessness, he is despised. Wealth is good if it be used for good purposes- for the education of children, for the encouragement of learning and virtue, for the well-being of the people at large.—T.
Ruth 3:5, Ruth 3:6
Ruth was not Naomi's daughter, yet she acted, and with good reason and great propriety, as though she had been such. What holds good, therefore, of the relationship described in this book holds good, a fortiori, of the relation between parents and children. In modern society the bonds of parental discipline are, especially among the working class, lamentably relaxed. Christian people should, in the interests alike of patriotism and religion, do all they can to strengthen these bonds. The text affords us a beautiful example of filial obedience.
I. MOTIVES to filial obedience. Gratitude should lead the child to obey the parent, to whom he owes so very much. The constraint should be the sweet constraint of love. Reason should lead to the reflection—The parent has experience of human life, in which I am necessarily lacking; is not a parent's judgment far more likely to be sound than is a child's, or even a youth's? Divine legislation commands children to obey their parents. E.g. the fifth commandment, under the old covenant; apostolical admonitions, under the new. The example of the Holy Child, Jesus!
II. The ADVANTAGES of filial obedience. Usually, obvious temporal advantages ensue upon such a course. This is proverbial and unquestionable. The satisfaction of a good conscience is a compensation not to be despised for any sacrifice of personal feeling in this matter. The approval of God is most emphatically pronounced upon those who honor and obey their parents. And this is usually followed by the confidence and admiration of fellow-men.
1. Expostulate with the disobedient.
2. Encourage the obedient.—T.
The joy of harvest.
There is brightness and pleasantness in the view this passage gives us of a harvest-time in the vale of Bethlehem. Poets and painters have interpreted the heart of humanity in the pictures and the songs in which they have represented "the joy of harvest." Boaz, the mighty man of wealth, was not only rich and prosperous—he was happy, and free from the moroseness which sometimes accompanies riches; he was generous, and free from the miserliness and penuriousness which often grows with prosperity; he was considerate, and observed and recognized individual cases of need.
I. IT IS RIGHT TO PARTAKE OF THE BOUNTIES OF GOD'S PROVIDENCE. Gluttony and drunkenness meet with no encouragement from this, or from any other portion of Scripture. But no countenance is given to asceticism God "daily loadeth us with benefits;" he giveth not only seed to the sower, but "bread to the eater." We should eat, drink, and give thanks to him who "openeth his hand and satisfieth the wants of every living thing." Sincerity and thoughtfulness should accompany the daily blessing and breaking of bread. Christ "came eating and drinking."
II. IT IS RIGHT TO BE HARPY AND MIRTHFUL WHEN GOD HAS DEALT BOUNTIFULLY WITH US. There is mirth of a kind attending the carousals and the debaucheries of sinners. This mirth is hollow, and will soon be succeeded by regrets. But when God's children sit at their Father's table and partake of his bounty, what more natural and just than that they should rejoice and sing aloud of his goodness? These gifts and "all things" are theirs!
III. IT IS RIGHT TO REST WHEN DUTY HAS BEEN FULFILLED AND TASKS ACHIEVED. Some zealous Christians seem to think all repose is sinful, as manifesting indifference to the magnitude of the work to be done. But God has made the body so that it needs rest, the mind so that it needs relaxation. The quality of the work will not suffer, but will gain, by timely and moderate repose.—T.
A blessing comes appropriately from a senior; a father blesses his son, a venerable patriarch his youthful colleague. Boaz was an elderly man, and it seems appropriate that, addressing Ruth, the young widow of his kinsman, he should use language of benediction: "Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter!"
I. BENEDICTION PROCEEDS FROM A BENEVOLENT DISPOSITION. It is the opposite of cursing. Sometimes language of benediction is used when there is no spiritual reality behind it. In such cases it is a mockery, a counterfeit of benevolence and piety.
II. BENEDICTION IMPLIES PIETY. Belief in God, and in God's willingness to bless. There is a looking up to God on behalf of him who is to be blessed. Without this the language of blessing is meaningless.
III. BENEDICTION IS THE ACKNOWLEDGMENT THAT FROM GOD ALL GOOD MUST COME, COMBINED WITH THE DESIRE AND PRAYER THAT HE WILL BE GRACIOUS. It is the hallowing of our best affections; it is the making real and personal of our most solemn religious beliefs.
IV. BENEDICTION, IF HARMONIOUS WITH GOD'S WILL, SECURES GOD'S FAVOR. It is a wish, but a wish realized; a prayer, but a prayer heard and answered in heaven.—T.
A virtuous woman.
The circumstances of the narrative read strangely to us. But one nation and one age cannot fairly apply its standards to another. Nothing is more certain than that the conduct of Naomi, of Ruth, and of Boaz was perfectly correct, and probably Ruth's proceeding was wise and justifiable. Upon her character no breath of suspicion rested; she was, in the language of the text, "a virtuous woman."
I. RUTH'S VIRTUE WAS MANIFESTED BY HER CIRCUMSPECT CONDUCT WITH REFERENCE TO YOUNG MEN. "Thou followedst not young men, whether rich or poor."
II. HER VIRTUE WAS APPARENT IN HER OBEDIENCE TO HER MOTHER-IN-LAW. Instead of taking counsel of her own comparative inexperience, she listened to the advice of the sage and prudent Naomi.
III. HER VIRTUE WAS ACKNOWLEDGED BY ALL HER ACQUAINTANCE. "All the city of my people doth know." If there had been anything in the conduct of the poor, friendless young foreigner inconsistent with virtue, it would not have been hid. She escaped calumny.
IV. HER VIRTUE LED TO AN HONORABLE MARRIAGE AND POSITION IN ISRAEL. "A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband." We can believe that Ruth verified the beautiful description given in Proverbs 31:1-31.—T.
Ruth 3:12, Ruth 3:13
Respect for others' rights.
The situation in which Boaz found himself was very singular. All that he had heard and all that he had observed of this young Moabitess had impressed him favorably. His language and his conduct show that Ruth had made an impression upon his heart. And it was honorable to him that it was so. Her youth, her beauty, her misfortunes, her industry, her cheerfulness, her filial devotedness, her virtue, her piety, all commended her to the judgment and the affections of the upright and conscientious Boaz. And now, with the most perfect modesty, and in the presentation of an undoubted claim upon him, Ruth offered herself to him as his lawful, rightful wife. What hindered him from immediately complying with her request, and taking her to his heart and his home? There was one impediment. Another had, if he chose to exercise it, a prior claim. Another had the first right to redeem the field of Elimelech, and to espouse the heiress, and raise up seed to the departed. And until this person—the nameless one—had exercised his option, Boaz did not feel at liberty to act upon the suggestion of his heart.
I. PERSONAL FEELINGS ALWAYS INCREASE THE URGENCY OF THE CLAIMS OF SELFISHNESS. "By nature and by practice" men seek their own interest. But experience shows us that strong emotion increases the danger of our yielding to such impulses.
II. WHERE PERSONAL FEELINGS ARE CONCERNED THERE IS NEED OF WATCHFULNESS AND PRAYER. It is so easy to wrong others for the sake of our own gratification, that it is well to question the arguments and pleas by which our interests are commended. Boaz must have been tempted, in the circumstances, to say nothing about the nearer kinsman, but quietly to accept the proposal of Ruth.
III. TRUE PRINCIPLE, AIDED BY THE POWER OF RELIGION, WILL ENABLE A MAN TO DO THE RIGHT, EVEN THOUGH HIS OWN INTERESTS AND HIS OWN FEELINGS ARE OPPOSED TO SUCH A COURSE. Boaz gained the victory over himself, and consented to abide the issue of an appeal to the nearer kinsman, although he risked thereby the loss of Ruth. Many of the highest illustrations of the nobility possible to man turn upon some such situation, and the course which honor and virtue prescribe is the course in which true and lasting happiness will be found.—T.
Boaz was "a mighty man of wealth," and Naomi and Ruth were poor, widowed, friendless, and comparatively strangers. All through the narrative Boaz appears as thoughtful, liberal, unselfish, honorable, munificent. He is an example to those whom Providence has endowed with wealth.
I. WEALTH IS GIVEN TO THE RICH not for their own sake only, but FOR THE SAKE OF OTHERS. Men are not the owners, but the stewards, of their possessions. How imperfectly this truth is recognized! The only way in which we can give to Christ is by giving to his people.
II. GENEROSITY SHOULD BE PROPORTIONATE TO THE MEANS OF THE GIVER. Both his means absolutely and his means relatively, i.e. considering the claims upon him by virtue of his family, his position, &c.
III. GENEROSITY SHOULD BE PROPORTIONATE TO THE NEEDS OF THE RECIPIENT. Those should have the preference who are old, crippled, and helpless; the widow and the orphan.
IV. GENEROSITY SHOULD BE UNOSTENTATIOUS AND SYMPATHETIC in its spirit; Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth." Hardness of manner may spoil beneficence. "Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind."—T.
Naomi showed in her whole conduct not only tender feeling and sympathy, and sincere piety, but much shrewdness, foresight, tact, and knowledge of human nature. When there was anything for Ruth to do she was forward in urging her to action. But she knew that there is always a time to wait, as well as a time to work; and she reminded Ruth that now events must be left to others—indeed, must be left to God!
I. The OCCASION for sitting still. According to some, the belief that God works is inconsistent with the obligation to work ourselves. The whole idea of the religious life, as apprehended by some mistaken minds, is to do nothing, and to leave God to do everything. And some, who do not go so far as this, still are blind to the privilege of being "workers together with God." When we have done our part, then is the time to sit still. The workman has first to labor, then to rest. The day of toil comes first, and the night of repose follows. When we can do no more, then is the time to sit still. Ask yourself whether you have or have not this reason for refraining from effort. We sometimes come to the end of our ability; we have done our part, and for us nothing now remains to do.
II. MOTIVES which should induce thus to sit still. We have to consider that in certain cases to do otherwise would be utterly useless. In these cases it is a waste of power to make further effort, and a waste of feeling to allow anxiety to distress the heart. Thus any other course would be injurious, would destroy or disturb our peace of mind. And there are occasions when to be quiet is to trust in the providential rule and care of God. So it was with Ruth at this conjuncture. The example of Christ should not be overlooked. There came a time when he was silent before his foes.
III. The BLESSING which follows sitting still.
1. Peace of heart. "Rest in the Lord."
2. Strength. "Your strength is to sit still." "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength."
3. If God will, prosperity. "He shall give thee thy heart's desire."
4. In any case the glory of God, who desires that his people should do his will, and leave results to him.—T.
HOMILIES BY W.M. STATHAM
"Shall not I seek rest for thee?" How natural. We cannot ever be with those we love. Marriage is God's own ideal, and it is the happiest estate if his fear dwells in our hearts.
I. THERE IS NO EARTHLY REST LIKE THE REST OF HOME. Judges, warriors, statesmen enjoy the honors of life, and are conscious of pleasure in promotion and distinction, but their biographies tell us how they turn to home as the highest joy of all. Yes! Nothing can compensate for the loss of a happy home, and we should seek in every way to make it a refreshment and a delight by doing our best to promote its peace and purity.
II. THE EARTHLY HOME IS A PARABLE OF HEAVEN. Our Savior touches our hearts at once when he says, "My Father's house," and when he speaks the exquisite parable of the prodigal son. No analogies of city or temple are so powerful in their influence over us as the analogy of home.—W.M.S.
The work of winnowing.
"Behold, he winnoweth barley tonight." A world-old process this, the winnowing of the chaff from the wheat. Customs change, and commercial life increases and creates ever new demands; but the agricultural life is still the basis of all. You may make new threshing-machines, but you must still have bread. It may be winnowed by steam or hand, but it must be winnowed. A pleasant Eastern sight: work done in the cool of the evening—"tonight."
I. WORK IS EVER ASSOCIATED BY GOD WITH HIS BLESSINGS TO MAN. We must plant and dig and reap. God sends the sunshine, the sweet air, and the shower. If a man will not work, neither shall he eat. A paradise of idlers would soon be a Gehenna indeed. No curse can come to a nation so sad as this: "Abundance of idleness was in her sons and her daughters."
II. WORK IS NEVER UNDIGNIFIED OR TO BE DISDAINED. A gentleman is gentle in his work—not because he does no work. It is a false pride that dislikes handiwork. Many of the diseases which darken the brain come from the unwise neglect of physical exercise. What is sweeter than the fragrance of the upturned soil? What is more beneficent than the law of labor, which calls forth the exercise of body, mind, and spirit?
III. WORK OF WINNOWING IS A DIVINE WORK ALSO. God uses his tribulum in our history, and the tribulation-work produces experience, patience, hope. When we are mourning over some sorrow or loss, it is the bruising flail of God's correction. And this comes at all seasons of life, even in the evening of the day. For we shall need chastisement even unto the end. What a doom is that "without chastisement."—W.M.S.
"A virtuous woman." Here is the crown of all beauty. What a renown is this of Ruth's. No jeweled necklet, no Eastern retinue, can give such attraction as this. We may have women of genius, and we admire genius; we may have women of scientific attainment, and God has given no lack of intellectual endowments to women, but we must have virtue. Let the history of later Rome tell us what the loss of this is.
I. NO LIFE IS HIDDEN. "All the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman." Every history stands revealed. Concerning Nehemiah, we read of the testimony given in time of national trouble: "There is a man in thy kingdom in whose heart is the fear of the holy God." And so this simple-hearted Ruth, who had not tried to make herself attractive to the young men, poor or rich, who had been modest in manner and heroic in conduct, left the impress of her character on the city.
II. NO LIFE CAN BE RELIGIOUS THAT IS NOT VIRTUOUS. We may, indeed, have virtue of a kind, a morality of respectability, without religion; but we cannot be religious without morality, for religion does not consist in ceremonies however impressive, or days however sacred, or opinions however sound; but in a life of consecration to God, and of obedience to all the sanctities of the moral law. There may be a religion of emotionalism merely; but blessed as it is to feel the true, we must live it out as well in common life.
III. NO POWER IS SO PERMANENT AS THAT OF HOLY LIFE. Character lives in others. We do not die when we pass from earth. Ruth lives today. It would be interesting to know how many have been led even in this age to devoutness and decision by the remembrance of her conduct and the exquisite pathos of her words. The little "city" of which our text speaks has passed away, but wherever the word of God is known and read, there Ruth reproduces herself in the history of others. The very name has become a family name, and is honored by constant use in every generation.—W.M.S.
A woman's influence.
In all history woman has held a place of regal influence. Not by intruding on the sphere of man, not by acting as if there were no Divine providence in the more delicate physical constitution of woman which incapacitates her for the strain of hardest toil; but in the ideal of "home," in which she is to be the "abiding" one, filling it with the charm of quiet influence and the sacredness of self-sacrificing love.
I. HERE IS A STRANGE CONJUNCTION OF TERMS. "Virtuous" comes from the Latin vir, which means a man. What then? Is a woman to be like a man? Does it mean a manly woman? In one sense it does. For "the man" is taken in the Scripture as the type of humanity in its best estate. "Show thyself a man," says David to Solomon. It means all that is pure, and brave, and true, and good. Thus "abominable" means something ab homo, to be designated as "away from a man;" something altogether alien to his nature. A virtuous woman is a woman who has strength of resistance to evil, strength of devotion to God, strength of patience and endurance in the path of obedience.
II. HERE IS THE POWER OF INFLUENCE. "All the people of my city (or, at the gate) doth know that thou art a virtuous woman." Certainly. "They that be otherwise cannot be hid." What a lesson that is! Character tells everywhere. You may not note the current running, but place your boat upon it, and you soon see it. So it is with a good life—it bears others in its current. We are all known. Men and women are judged at their true worth even in this world, and even the wicked respect the upright and the just. It was said of Nehemiah to the king in a time of trouble, "There is a man in thy kingdom in whose heart is the fear of the holy God."
III. HERE IS THE SECRET OF NATIONAL GLORY. It was so in Rome when they could speak with pride of the Roman matron, and it has been so in every nation under heaven. A Divine judgment was needed to purify this nation after the days of Charles II. Had it not been a time of judgment, the nation, as Charles Kingsley says, would have perished. Let the young be taught modesty even in dress and demeanor. Let all that is "fast" be frowned upon and made unfashionable. The grace that Christ gives is humility with the fear of the Lord.—W.M.S.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Ruth 3". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter